The Corner

The Very Idea

On NPR’s “Morning Edition” today, a reporter went from one human rights group to another, collecting complaints about the way the Bush administration intends to spend some $7 billion to combat AIDS in Africa. The principal whine? That the administration is spending too much. The little human rights groups can’t absorb $7 billion, and so now big companies are placing bids for some of these new federal AIDS contracts. Yeah, I know. You’re breathless with indignation already, right. But wait. It gets worse. I mean, it gets a lot worse. Some of these big companies are defense contractors. See, there’s a theory going around that purchasing hundreds of thousands of doses of AIDS drugs, shipping them to Africa, and then distributing them all over the entire continent is going to be, like, some really difficult task. But obviously that’s just a cover for the defense contractors.

As one human rights activist explained, none of this would have happened if the Bush administration had only been willing to work with international organizations. You know, like the UN. I mean, the oil-for-food program in Iraq turned into this really great model of integrity and effectiveness, as the Duelfer report just explained. No profit takers there. No way. Just angels of international mercy. Instead, the activist said, the Bush administration is threatening to turn the new American AIDS effort into “the Halliburton” of human rights programs. You know, Halliburton. The company that was awarded a no-bid contract to fix the oil wells in Iraq because there was no other company that could handle the job, and then did it, just went right ahead and got that oil flowing again, and at such a huge profit margin that now investors want the company to get rid of the unit that was involved so they can stop taking hits in the press and get back to making money again.

The Bush administration wants to do something about AIDS in Africa. Which is what makes NPR such a totally invaluable public service. As that reporter this morning reminded millions of listeners, its not about getting anything done over there. It’s about letting liberals feel good about themselves right here.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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